Carnegie Mellon University

Substantial & Sustained Contributions to Education

Doherty Award – Purpose & Criteria

The Robert E. Doherty Award is given annually to a member of the Carnegie Mellon University community who has made substantial and sustained contributions to excellence in education. The Doherty Award is not a teaching award; it recognizes contributions beyond teaching one's own courses.

Award criteria:

This award recognizes a member of the Carnegie Mellon University community for substantial and sustained contributions to excellence in education, above and beyond teaching courses and mentoring students, based on: 

  1. contributions to the development, implementation and evaluation of innovative and/or impactful educational programs and/or materials at all levels, 
  2. the creation and maintenance of learning environments at CMU that foster excellence in education, including, but not limited to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, and/or
  3. impacts on enhancing higher education via scholarship and/or service resulting in the development, dissemination and/or adoption of evidence-based, high-impact, and/or transformational educational practices, at CMU and beyond.

Any group of three or more of the following people may nominate:

  1. current or retired CMU faculty members, administrators, staff
  2. current or former full-time CMU undergraduate or graduate students or postdocs

Students seeking to nominate someone are strongly encouraged to collaborate with faculty and/or administrators in the nominee’s academic department to ensure a strong nomination.

All full-time current employees of Carnegie Mellon University are eligible to be nominated for the award. No one person may win the award more than once or simultaneously with the Ryan Award or Academic Advising Award.

Nominations consist of two phases

Phase 1: Nominators submit a single, 2 page nomination letter, due November 1
Phase 2: After award committees select finalists, nominators then compile and submit a full nomination case, due February 1.

Please submit nominations as a single PDF using these online forms:

Phase 1 nominations – due November 1
Phase 2 nominations – due February 1

Questions should be directed to the Vice Provost for Education.

When is the nomination deadline? November 1

The Phase 1 nomination letter must be submitted on or before November 1 via the nomination form to be considered for that academic year.

What is submitted? 

In Phase 1, nominators must submit one letter (maximum two single-spaced pages) that explains why the individual is worthy of the award. Because the decision to advance the nomination to the second phase is based on this letter alone, it should be descriptive, convincing, and specifically focused on addressing the award criteria listed above

Given the purpose of the award, the following should not be included:

  • information on the nominee's research (unless it directly connects to the development or assessment of an educational program or curriculum, and
  • descriptions of the nominee’s teaching excellence or innovation at the level of individual courses. 

The Phase 1 nomination letter should be submitted as a PDF via the nomination form on or before November 1.

When are finalists selected for Phase 2?

The award committee will select two to five people to be considered for Phase 2 of the nomination process. Nominators will be notified of outcomes in December.

When is the nomination due? February 1

The Phase 2 nomination letter must be submitted on or before February 1 via the nomination form to be considered for that academic year.

Who prepares the nomination materials for finalists? 

The nominators of each person selected for Phase 2, together with the relevant dean/department head (or their designee), are responsible for preparing the full case for that nomination. In the case of a department head nominee, the relevant dean should be included in preparation of the full package.

What is submitted?

The final nomination packet should include the following:

  • a cover memo/page detailing the contents of the nomination package,
  • a letter from the phase 1 nominators (original or revised, maximum two single spaced pages).
  • no more than 30 letters of recommendation (maximum two single spaced pages each) from appropriate parties, such as Carnegie Mellon faculty or administrators, colleagues, and present and former students, and 
  • no more than 10 pages of supplemental materials, such as brief summaries of the educational programs referenced in the nomination materials, and 
  • the nominee’s brief CV (2-4 pages).

Advice for nominators and letter writers:

Letters should:

  • be limited to two single spaced pages each, 
  • specifically and directly describe how the nominee demonstrates sustained excellence regarding the award criteria listed above,
  • include testimonials* from colleagues at Carnegie Mellon and elsewhere who have first-hand knowledge of the nominee's broad contributions to education,
  • include testimonials from alumni** who can comment on the impact of the educational programs developed by the nominee on their careers,
  • and should not include:
    • information on the nominee's research (unless it directly connects to the development, assessment, and/or improvement of an educational program),
    • course syllabi and course evaluation materials, or
    • letters from students or colleagues that focus on the nominee's teaching. 

*Testimonials might include, but are not limited to: 

  • developing innovative educational programs for undergraduate, graduate or special students,
  • creating and implementing programs, services or systems to nurture and sustain students, faculty or staff to achieve their full educational potential,
  • designing or incorporating program elements that address diverse students' needs,
  • assessing any of the above to contribute to general knowledge on evidence-based educational practice and/or to iteratively refine and enhance educational programs, 
  • developing widely used curriculum material such as textbooks and educational software, and/or
  • establishing educational programs that bridge the university and the community.

**Alumni may need more guidance in terms of expectations of what a good letter of recommendation should look like. Please provide them with the award criteria and advice in this document.

Effective student letters address the intersection of the criteria and the student experience as well as include real-life examples from their experience and interactions with the nominee and the nominee’s short- and/or long-term impacts on the letter writer. 

Please note that selected quotes from the winner's nomination packet may be used for publicity purposes.

SUBMISSION: The Phase 2 nomination packet should be submitted as a single PDF via the nomination form on or before February 1.

When is the award winner announced? 

The award committee will select one winner annually. Nominators of all finalists will be notified of outcomes in March. The winner, along with their nominators, colleagues, and friends and family, will be invited to attend the Celebration of Education event in April to receive their award.

The provost is responsible for the administration of the nomination and selection process, including calling for proposals and convening the award selection committee.

The award selection committee consists of:

  • the three most recent recipients of the Doherty Award
  • three faculty members appointed by the provost
  • the chairperson of the committee (the director of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, a non-voting member). If this person is unavailable, the provost will appoint another faculty member or administrator to serve in this capacity.

The selection committee adopts its own rules of procedure.

The committee will choose one person to be recommended to the provost as the year's recipient of the award. Upon the provost's approval, the recipient will be notified and the award will be presented at the Celebration of Education event in the spring.